How To Assess Where You’re At

Where are you heading?
Where are you heading? by Jann Alexander © 2013

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”

—Yogi Berra

Being prompted by a WordPress Daily Prompt, State of Your Year, is a great way to start a regular habit: assessing where you’re at mid-way through the year, or at any time that’s right for you.

Why assess where you’re at? Well, just as Yogi Berra implied, with tongue firmly in cheek: knowing where you’re planning to go is critical to tracking how far along the path you’ve gone. When you’ve created some goals for yourself, for your business or career, for your relationships, for your art, for your creative practice, or for any area of growth you’re pursuing, you’ll be able to see

  • how you’re progressing,
  • where you need to step back,
  • where you might want to throttle forward and
  • what you ought to just toss overboard.

How do you assess where you’re at? That’s as personal as your goals, but there are some benchmarks you can set up to make it an easy, regular habit—one that you can return to mid-year, mid-quarter or on a schedule that works best for you.

Step 1: Where Are You Going?

Get Your Goals Down.

Lists are a time-honored way to put down your goals.
Lists work for me, Evernote does too.

Spend some time putting your goals (dreams, plans, however you think of them) in a form you’ll be able to get back to again and again. Write them in lovely calligraphy in your beautifully bound leather journal, scribble them on paper napkins at the coffee shop, type them on your old Smith-Corona with onionskin carbon paper, put them in a Word file in a desktop folder titled “Don’t Lose,” record them into your iPhone’s Voice Memos app in an optimistic tone, make several lists on legal pads (my personal choice) or save them to your Evernote notebook with tags like “personal,” “to do,” “goals.” Just get them recorded somewhere, somehow, so that you’ll find them easily to refer back to.

Step 2: How Long Will It Take to Get There?

Prioritize Your Goals. 

The very act of recording goals helps you think through which ones are priorities for the short-term, near-term and long-term. You can’t tackle them all at once, with equal priority, and some don’t demand your constant attention anyway. As you decide which goals fall into which bucket, consider how much time you’ll devote to each one, too, and what your timeframe is for each.

Step 3: What’s the Best Route to Get There?

Really, Really Look at Your Goals. Really. 

The goals you’re most excited about tell you alot about where you’re heading. Once you’ve put down everything you want to accomplish and given yourself a timeframe for each one, take a coffee break. Really, really look at where you’ve decided to go. Some goals will jump out at you right away: you really want to start on these, yesterday! They stoke your passions, you’re enthusiastic about these, you can’t wait to get up in the morning to work on these. You’re getting some insights about where your passions really lie, and how you might want to reorient your priorities.

You’ll find that you’re already well on your way with some of your goals: so you’ll see that you might want to spend your time elsewhere. Pat yourself on the back for already being so far along, and then re-prioritize. You’ll get in the habit of this each time you assess where you’re at.

You’ll see that some goals aren’t realistic as they are: maybe you absolutely hate doing what it takes to accomplish them, maybe you have no idea how to achieve those results, maybe they’re just too time-consuming. Making these judgments doesn’t require you to jettison the goals. It just means you may want to hire someone else to do what you hate (then you can focus on what you’re passionate about, and probably quite good at), or you’ll need to get self-educated (so you can learn how to achieve a goal you’ve never tackled before) or you may need to postpone the most time-consuming goals (until you do have more time, or until you decide down the road that you never really needed to do those, after all).

Step 4: How Will You Know When You Get There?

Think About The Journey.

You’ve planned out the route: you’ve set up the mileposts for your goals, the timeframe  you’ll need to get there, and how long you think the journey will be. You can re-prioritize right now, or stay on the path you’ve been on, or allow yourself some new goals. But to know when you’ve gotten where you want to go, give yourself some measures that indicate accomplishment to you.

Measures you choose to indicate you’ve achieved your goals can be adjusted along the way. Seeing that you’ve over-accomplished in certain areas can push you to pursue similar opportunities. Under-accomplishing can mean your timeframe is too short, your methods need adjusting, or your goals aren’t really achievable yet, or even that you should ditch those plans to concentrate on the successful ones. Setting up your own personal measures of success means you’ll see which goals are financially-lucrative or financially-draining, or emotionally-exhausting or emotionally-meaningful. And you’ll know where to adjust.

You can look at your goals daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly: each time you assess where you’re at, you’ll understand more about where you’re going. You can cross certain goals off, bump other goals closer to the top, mark certain goals as accomplished, add new goals and adjust measures.

You’ll get there. You’ll know you’re there. And you’ll be inspired to keep going. Because striving for growth is a never-ending journey, isn’t it? How do you set up goals and keep track of how you’re getting there?

This post was inspired by the WordPress Daily Prompt, State of My Year. And now it’s time to evaluate my own goals. See how far I’ve come at Austin Details Art + Photo.

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